4.27.2005

literary manhattan

Randy Cohen, who writes a column called "The Ethicist" for The New York Times Magazine, has an amazing idea.
I propose to create, with the help of the Book Review's readers, a literary map of Manhattan -- not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters, a map of the literary stars' homes.

I began thinking about this map years ago while reading Don DeLillo's "Great Jones Street." Bucky Wunderlick gazes out the window of his "small crowded room" at the firehouse across the street. I realized: there's only one firehouse on that street and few buildings that contain tiny apartments rather than commercial lofts. I know where Bucky Wunderlick lives. Or would live if he existed. He's got to be at No. 35. Knowing this made walking around the neighborhood like walking through the novel. But I walked without a map. Shouldn't there be a map of imaginary New Yorkers?

It would be a lush literary landscape -- the house on Washington Square where Catherine Sloper waited and yearned, the coffee shops where the characters of Ralph Ellison and Isaac Bashevis Singer quarreled and kibbitzed, the offices where John Cheever's people spent their days, the clubs where Jay McInerney's creatures wasted their nights, the East 70's and Upper West Side avenues where the Glass family bickered (Salinger gives several addresses), downtown where Ishmael wandered the docks.
The fleshed-out idea, more examples, information about how to participate, and a sample map, are all here.

This is perfect melding of two of my great passions - books and New York City. Guess I'll have to quit my job and give up my writing assignments to work on this project...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Coolness! Thank you. I have to check this out and see if Chumley's is on the map. And the Poe house.

Crabby

L-girl said...

Ah, but he doesn't mean places like the Poe House. (Which by the way is on my "NYC still to do" list.) He means if Poe wrote a story that took place in NYC, where the characters would have lived. It's a map that exists only in our imaginations.

You know Chumley's?! Yay you. I went there Christmas Day for the first time in so many years. The post is back there somewhere...

Crabbi said...

I just glanced at the article, but now I get it. Great idea.

Yep, I've been to Chumley's a couple of times and I will go back. I have to find your post!

You'll love the Poe House. I went on a gloomy November day, and it was perfect.

L-girl said...

My Christmas posts are here and here. Nothing too earth-shattering, but I did go to Chumley's.

That is so cool that you've been to the Poe House. Not exactly a hot tourist destination. (Not that I would expect you to stay on the beaten tourist track!)

I may be destined to never connect with the ghosts of E A Poe. Three times, on three different baseball trips, I tried to visit the Poe House in Baltimore. Whenever I was there, it was closed.

I saw some other cool stuff in Baltimore, like the Visionary Museum (go!), but no Lenore, nevermore. I hope I have better luck in the Bronx.

Crabbi said...

Love the Christmas posts! I plan to do a travel post at some point and I'd like to link to those, if that's OK.

In yet another instance of our synchronicity, I've been thinking about Baltimore lately. I've never been, but I want to. Goucher College offers a low-residency program in Creative Nonfiction, which I might look into.

L-girl said...

Baltimore is a nice little city, it has some things worth seeing, including their terrific ballpark and the aforementioned Visionary Museum. And of course the hard-shelled version of your namesake hails from the Chesapeake Bay!

Though I think you are a vegetarian and probably don't eat shellfish. (Would that be cannibalism in your case?)

Quote away, of course - I'd be honored. Though I don't think those posts give you much...

That course looks cool. I had or maybe still have aspirations to write a book along the lines of Alex Kotlowitz or Jonathan Kozol or Michael Winerip - I was researching something for several years that didn't work out. So I relate to that creative nonfiction impulse.

And now I'm babbling...

Crabbi said...

Babbling is cool. I live for babbling. I wish my name was Brooke...

The Visionary Museum looks great. If I get to Baltimore, I will be sure to go there.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I try not to eat too much meat. I'm a bit conflicted about it, but I crave it sometimes. Didn't you say something on that topic in an earlier post? Some people just need that kind of protein, I suppose, and I may be one of them.

Other times, I think, wow, I just ate flesh. And picture a cute cow or pig staring at me reproachfully. So, at some point I'll probably just give it up entirely.

I'm guessing your new project is non-fiction - hope it's creative, as well :)

L-girl said...

I have those same mixed feelings, as you may have read elsewhere. I see the disconnect between loving my dogs and eating a lamb.

If the lamb had a nice life before it was killed, and was killed quickly and humanely, I'd be more ok with it. But we know that is not the case...

New project is a book about ancient civilizations for 9-12-year-olds, part of a junior encyclopedia program. It's my favorite age group to write for, and I love learning about ancient civs, so it will be fun. And very challenging! Very tight word limits, not much space for anything.

OK, so now we've moved our email conversation here. :)